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Everyday Cyclist

Epiphany

Today was groundbreaking. I’ve finally pushed beyond the annual melancholy feeling that plagues me at the beginning of each summer. I remembered that hot temperatures do not mean the end of biking. Although the afternoons are off limits, we truly have no off season in Phoenix. While other regions are limited to biking on rollers as a result of snow and ice, our roads remain clear. Our only obstacle is a 4 am alarm clock.  It’s brutally early, but the reward is exponential.

Just this morning, with a new set of Continental GP4000’s mounted and my trusty Axiom light illuminating the road before me, I  set off from my apartment. Gradually, I began to warm up my legs and gained momentum. Pedaling through Old Town Scottsdale, the Saturday night revelers had long since retired from their partying. I was left to enjoy quiet & empty streets. Ordinarily, Goldwater is a bustling 4 lane thoroughfare congested with shoppers, professionals, and delivery vehicles. However, it was now a ghost town. As I passed through the historic shopping district, a bar had forgotten to turn off their misters. Although hardly a wise usage of water, the cooling spray was welcomed as I waited for a light to change. From there, I enjoyed a brief descent on an underpass beneath Scottsdale Fashion Center, turned into the adjacent neighborhood, and entered Paradise Valley.

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The roadway before sunrise.

Paradise Valley is a unique town. Although it is in the heart of Phoenix, its’ affluent residents are diligent to maintain a desert atmosphere. This diligence lends itself to a strictly regulated, almost police state atmosphere. However, it also provides gorgeous scenery. The roads are narrow and desert flora abounds. I watched rabbits scamper across the road and quail forage for food as my pedals turned. Quiet mansions sat behind their foreboding walls.I began to daydream about what it must be like to live in one of those residences.

Eventually, I arrived at my destination: Echo Canyon Trail. This popular trail leads to the summit of Camelback Mountain. Ordinarily, residents and tourists jockey for limited parking. Hikers line the sidewalks and park rangers diligently keep the flow of traffic moving. However, at that time, only a few early vehicles were present and the ranger was just beginning to set up the temporary “No Parking” signs. I had the road to myself, which enabled to me to dismount and take a few photos.

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Camelback Mountain

After a few moments of reflection, I again set off. Home was my destination. The pristine asphalt effortlessly rolled beneath my 700Cx23 tires on the downhill. Still, I was the sole user of the roadway. In fact, the only vehicle that I saw on my descent from the mountain was a Paradise Valley photo enforcement vehicle. With a 35 mph speed limit, I wasn’t concerned that I would be speeding. It was actually welcoming to know that any motorists would be slowed by its’ presence.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. I passed the Phoenician golf resort and gathered the energy for a final sprint. Having skipped breakfast, hunger was becoming a consideration. However, as I turned into my complex and entered my gate code, I encountered a feeling that I can’t honestly say I have felt since the triple digit temperatures began. Contentment.

The Phoenix Cycling Strugglebus

 

There’s no way around it. Phoenix summers are brutal. I’ve lived here for my entire life and it never gets easier. This morning, it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit by 5:30 am. As I type this, I’m enjoying my third Otter Pop of the day and listening to our trusty air conditioner work overtime. While we may not get the snowdrifts in December, this is our cycling off season. IMG_3707Some may say “oh, just toughen up!” However, we have already had 6 heat-related fatalities this year in the Valley of the Sun and “Excessive Heat Warnings” have become the norm. Up to 105 degrees, I can handle. However, over 105 degrees, I believe that it becomes downright dangerous.

According to the CDC,  you need to drink 32 ounces of water per hour during periods of excessive heat. Let’s say you wanted to do a 30 mile ride at 18 mph. You’re going to (conservatively) require nearly 54 ounces of water. That’s more than 2 Podium Chill bottles in less than 2 hours! Cycling after 9 am is simply not an option unless absolutely required.

However, despite the circumstances, I refuse to regress. Nothing brings me more joy than putting down miles on the Roubaix. As a result, I’ll be indoors on the trainer burning through tires. That’s not to say that I won’t get the occasional 4 am ride, but at least I can catch up on my Tour de France coverage and enjoy some EDM for motivation through my earbuds!

Wayfinding for Bike Commuters

I live in Phoenix, which is a world renowned city for urban sprawl. Much of the city’s layout was planned during the 1950’s-1970’s As a result, many of our main thoroughfares are 2-3 lanes wide with 45 mph speed limits. A few of these roads have bike lanes, although I’m not keen to ride on those roads.

Intersection
An example in Scottsdale. This is a small intersection by Phoenix standards. 
I know what you’re thinking. “Oh great, another cyclist complaining that his city isn’t Portland and trying to make a city designed for cars into Copenhagen.” Nope. There are plenty of those blogs already. I merely bring this us up because this was a major deterrent for me from bike commuting. I feared riding among these cars on these fast stretches of road. I continued to procrastinate and drive my car instead. “I’ll start next week” quickly became “I’ll start next month”, which then became “I’ll start next winter.”

Eventually, my wife and I moved to North Scottsdale, which is one of the most friendly areas for biking in the valley. Once we were settled into our new apartment, I really had no excuse to keep driving. At the time, my employer was 5.4 miles away, allowed me to park my bicycle inside for security, and even provided a subsidy for utilizing alternate transportation. I decided that it was time to minimize my usage of the car. However, how would I safely get there?

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This path is close to the intersection above. However, few know that it exists.
At that point, I did what any self-respecting millennial would do. I fired up Google and discovered the magical “Bicycling” filter on Google Maps. Paths that I had never known existed were shown in a light shade of green. Rather than braving 50 mph traffic on a road designed like a runway, I was advised to follow little known paths that don’t permit vehicle traffic. High volumes of cars were replaced by trees, lawns, and ponds. Instead of waiting at stop lights, I cycled below them on underpasses that few Phoenicians know exist.Even more amazing, my commute on my road bike was only 3 more minutes than driving myself in my car.

 

 

Cycling for the Rest of Us

This is my second attempt at a cycling blog. My first attempt, Velocognoscenti, was a concept based upon the glamour that we see on many cycling Instagram accounts. I dreamed of beautiful photography and expensive gear tests. However, after just a few blog posts, I realized that this idea was overdone. That’s right. Just like craft breweries, the competition-based road cycling blog market is over-saturated.

Where are the blogs geared to the average Joe cyclist? You know, the ones who work a 9-to-5 in the corporate world, have family responsibilities, and enjoy one beer too many on the weekend. The ones that, while advocating for safer bicycling, also have a car in the garage which they don’t intend to sell (and *gasp!* may even enjoy driving!). The ones that dream of having expensive bikes, but also dream of having comfortable homes and well-funded retirement plans.

These are the cyclists which seem to be under-represented. These are the everyday cyclists.

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